Saturday, October 14, 2006

The One with Switzerland

They have mountains here. They're covered with snow. The sun is hot, but the snow doesn't melt. It is nice. You should visit. Bring a lot of money, though: it is an expensive country. The gondolas are particularly expensive. Suck it up. Pay the money and go up a mountain or tow. Even we did, despite being on a tight budget. It is a visual masterpiece up here and the air is fresh. Imagine, while sitting at home in smoggy North America, what fresh air is like (cottage-countryers will know) and look at our pictures. Together, that should give you an inkling of what it might be like to sleep nestled in the Swiss Alps.

The Paragraph about Luzern.

Luzern is a cute, though touristy, old city in Central Switzerland. It is based in one of the bays of a pretty big lake. After touring the town, admiring its 2 covered wooden bridges, adorned with flowers, catching a glimpse of the famous weeping lion and learning a tad about the town's history, we spent the afternoon cruising on a romantic riverboat around the the lake. The view was incredible. Mount Pilatus hovered over Luzern, but the entire backdrop was lined with equally impressive, and much more snowy mountains. There were so many sail boats taht it was virtually impossible to snap a picture without one in it. (Although I admit that they were the subject for a number of pictures as well).

One of the stops we explored was Hergiswill. They had a really neat glass museum that ushered us through the rooms with voices and displays pointing to the next exhibit. Gloass blowing is a traditional art of the area and Hergiswill Glass still employed real people from around the world to blow and form the glass. The museum ended in the glass-blowing workshop where we watched plates, vases and bowls being formed. It was so neat to see the glass coming out of the oven as a neon orange goop and then being pressed into a mold or blown and twisted into a tall vase. The oven though needed to be at least 1,000°C to melt the sand mixture. This made the workshop unbelievably hot! Glass blowing really is an art and it really made me want to buy some of their glass after learning about it and watching it being made (that's probably why the museum was free: great marketing!)

The Paragraph about Mt. Pilatus

As many of you have probably already heard, we went to the summit of Mt. Pilatus. Unlike normal people, though, instead of taking the cable car up, we hiked. Now before you start picturing us scaling mountains, I'll explain. There was a 'trail' (i use that word liberally) that was marked with little hiker-man pictures and read and white painted on rocks and trees. Unfortunately those 'helpful' painted marks mostly lead us through fields of endless cow-patties and the cows that made them (leaving us to wonder if we were on their path or if they were on ours), up slippery wet rocky hills, up grass hills, and at points up roads. Yes it was all up. Some of us are better up0hill hikers than others. Some of us didn't like dripping with sweat, while trying to avoid cow poo and going the wrong way at least once every half hour. Some of us wished we had just sukced it up and paid the annoyingly expensive fee to be whisked to the top by cable car. Others, however, claim the 3 hour sweat-fest to be (and I quote) 'a highlight' of the trip. Either way, we made it to the final lift stations at 4,600ft and took the cable car (more accurately, we were crammed like cows, swinging dangerously thousands of feet above the tree tops, supported only by a measley cable) up to the summit of Mt. Pilatus (7,000ft) The view from the top was definitely one worth writing home about. We walked through the paths inside the mountain, checking out the views and learning about the dragons that are known to frequent the mountains. Thankfully, we didn't encounter any of their patties on the way up. We lounged in the most comfortable lounge chairs since the Muskoka chairs at the cottage and ate creamy ice cream covered with Swiss Chocolate. Looking back, even some people would have to admit that the view from the top was worth the three hour hike and the following days of pain.

The Paragraph about Berner Oberland.

The Berner Oberland is an incredibly rugged region, south of Interlaken, in the heart of the Alps. We started in the valley of Lauterbrunnen. It is, by all definitions, an actual valley. Cliffs surround it, topped by three of the biggest mountains in Europe: The Maiden, The Monk and the Ogre. The Monk, in the middle, protects the Maiden from the Ogre. The valley itself is said to have 72 waterfalls! We walked through the valley(all flat, thankfully) admiring the waterfalls. Some were huge, while others, tiny streams falling out of a crack in the cliff. We then headed up 5,000ft in a cable car to Gimmelwald. Here, it is perfect. It is a traditional town of 100 people. There are cars and no grocery store. You can buy fresh milk, cheese, yogurt and bread from the locals. We are right up in the mountains, where the sky has never been so blue and the snow so white. As they say here, 'if heaven isn't all it is cracked up to be, send me back to Gimmelwald.'


Mom Mooney said...

Switzerland sounds breathtaking, lots of gorgeous scenery. Mom and Dad Mooney are jealous of your travels. We've definately added Switzerland to our must see list. Keep up the good work with your blogging and the phone calls are great too!

lesleylovesparis said...

hey kris! sounds like you're having a great time! & i love the note at the end of the one blog about that person whoever it is pretending to be someone else! beautiful! miss you tons!

Dad said...

Kristen the sail boat photo looks familiar to me. Keep trying.